The Glowing… Dawn of the Dead.

Stanley Headwall. If Carlsberg made mixed climbing crags…

The email I received, which was sent in reply to my email informing Raphael Slawinski that Greg Boswell and I intended to go to The Headwall to attempt Dawn of the Dead, made me smile.

“The whole route goes on gear, you don’t need to clip the bolts. Just saying.”  

I replied…

“Every route Greg and I have climbed in Scotland goes on gear; we don’t need practice at placing gear. Just saying.”

“Well I don’t suppose you will be clipping any of those bolts then?”

“Oh contrary, we will be clipping all of them, being safe in winter is a novelty!”

My friend Raphael is something of an enigma; this is possibly why he is my friend. A few years back, reaching the point where he had climbed all of the routes on the Stanley Headwall, including many first ascents, he decided to take the challenge farther by climbing Dawn of the Dead, a one hundred and forty five metre M8+ WI6, (Scottish tech 10) without clipping any of the bolts. To top this, when abseiling, he made ice v-threads alongside bolted anchors while his partner, Steve Swenson, who is no slouch when it comes to bold and out there, reportedly looked on shaking his head.

I really like this story, it shows fortitude. It also shows massive OCD which warms the heart and goes a little to making me think I am reasonably balanced!

Raphael Slawinski from a previous climb. If Carlsberg made climbers…

The temperature leaving the car yesterday morning was -26, which warmed to a luxurious -18 while we were climbing.

At seven pm, having climbed Dawn of the Dead, Greg Boswell and I followed our own deep footsteps steps cut into the side of the snowslope beneath the crag. A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep or even a Cougar had taken advantage of our steps. No, wind, not even a flicker and in the cold, the stars  are crackling silver foil and the full moon lights the iridescent ice candles that speak to us from high – the glowing is calling, calling us to challenge ourselves in some basic ancient ritual. ‘The route goes on gear.’

The temperature remained constant on the drive. The road was tyre wide strips of dry tarmac surrounded by a curtain of slithering snow. Parking at the Alpine Clubhut in Canmore, the temperature once again dipped into the -20’s. The route may go, ‘all on gear,’ but not today, every one of those bolts was clipped and very grateful we were for them all. Maybe our calling is for another day. Maybe not…

Dawn of the Dead.

Putting in a track, the day before. Credit, Greg Boswell.

Greg approaching the climb.

Greg on pitch one of Dawn of the Dead.

Me seconding the thin ice at the end of pitch one. A great lead, I think Greg was quite pleased to clip a few bolts here! Credit Greg Boswell.

Myself leading the ‘easy’ pitch. WI 4 this one. Credit Greg Boswell.

Me leading the third pitch. A great tuneful pitch in the present cold conditions. Credit Greg Boswell.

Higher  on the third pitch. Credit Greg Boswell.

Greg leading pitch four.

Topping out in the dark once again. We really need to get quicker! Credit Greg Boswell.

Abseiling in the dark, we are getting it down to a fine art.

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5 Responses to The Glowing… Dawn of the Dead.

  1. Neil says:

    Incoming post from Bullock. Prepare to engage.
    Ah no… hold your fire boys…it doesn’t appear to be threatening…actually it’s totally inoffensive!!!

    Sounds like a nice day out Nick – clippin’ bolts, postin’ feel-good stories, not wanting the bigger challenge. Maybe 50’s not so bad 🙂

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Funny that Neil, because on your previous post which all you said was “mental” I did exactly the same, I saw incoming comment from Neil, and I thought, hold on to your hat, batten down, here comes a slagging… But… mental was all the post said… I even looked for more message, but no, nothing… And I thought wow, Neil is not having a go at me for once… Maybe 50’s not so bad hey… even though neither of us actually are 50! 😉

  2. Ian Welsted says:

    Nice going. Not sure if you know, but if Greg managed to send the first pitch he would be one of a very few. It has defeated a lot of strong climbers.

    And with cold hands too!

  3. Ken Cox says:

    “A great tuneful pitch”. I love that description.

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